Wrangel Island, Russia


Wrangel Island in the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug is one of the most amazing places in the world. For several centuries, the island remained inaccessible to humans. The harsh and cold Arctic sheltered him from curious scientists and researchers. The island is located on the border of the East Siberian and Chukchi seas. The total area of ​​the reserve is about 2225.6 thousand hectares.

The exploration of the island began in the 30s. XX century But soon all economic activity on the island ceased. In 1937, the second head of the settlement, A. I. Mineev, issued a decree banning the fishing of Arctic foxes in the north of the island for environmental purposes, thereby making this area a reproductive reserve.

In 1953, the local authorities adopted a resolution on the protection of walrus rookeries on Wrangel Island, and in 1968, a reserve was organized here to protect the nesting white goose, walrus, brent geese, polar bears and colonial settlements of seabirds. After some time, musk oxen were introduced from Nunivak Island to Wrangel Island, and the Executive Committee of the Magadan Region allocates land on the Herald and Wrangel Islands for a future reserve to protect the rare natural complexes of the islands. The Wrangel Island State Reserve was officially established on March 23, 1976.

The main task of the reserve is to study and preserve the fauna on the insular part of the Arctic. Despite the arctic position of the island, its flora is distinguished by a high level of endemism, which is not found on other islands in the Arctic. Typically arctic as well as more southern plant species can be found here. The Red Data Book of plants includes the purple core and small petal complex growing here.

The Wrangel Islands are considered to be the largest concentration area for polar bear ancestral dens in the world. Every year about 400 female bears are buried on the island. In addition, there are the largest seabird colonies in the eastern Arctic, the only large nesting colony of white geese that has survived to this day in Asia, and the largest colonies of thick-billed guillemots, guillemots and kittiwakes in the Chukchi Sea.

In the summer and autumn seasons, bowhead whales, gray whales, beluga whales and fin whales are found in the waters of the East Siberian and Chukchi Seas.



The Chukchi toponym Umӄiԓir, literally "the island of polar bears", comes from umӄy "polar bear" and Iԓir "island".



Archaeological finds in the area of the Chertov ravine site indicate that the first people (paleo-Eskimos) hunted on the island in 1750 BC. At that time, the last mammoths could still be found here - representatives of a special dwarf variety - although direct evidence of their interaction with the most ancient population of the island has not yet been found.

It is believed that by the time the island was discovered by Europeans, it was uninhabited. Nevertheless, there are serious reasons to believe that at least until the beginning of the 19th century, the island served as a transit point that provided a link between the Eskimos of Alaska and the Arctic coast of Chukotka, and that stable settlements with ethnically heterogeneous inhabitants could exist on it. F. P. Wrangel also adhered to this opinion.

From a number of sources, the fact is known that on the western coast of the island in the 30s of the XX century, obvious remains of several dwellings were discovered as evidence that settled tribes of the indigenous people of Chukotka lived on it, leaving traces of their stay in the form of dwellings and objects: products from wood and bones. In the literature, the history of finding and evidence of finds is confusing. A participant in the Arctic voyages of 1910-1915, L. M. Starokadomsky, who left memoirs about his stay on Wrangel Island, mentions without indicating the source that in 1937 the remains of an ancient dwelling were discovered on Wrangel Island.

M. A. Sergeev makes a commentary on the book of F. P. Wrangel, in which he testifies that he found the old dwellings of A. I. Mineev, also without giving exact references. The history of finding objects and buildings is described by A. A. Burykin in the article "Ethnoarchaeology of Wrangel Island":
In 1937, the Eskimo hunter Ainafak found the remains of a dugout and some man-made items near Cape Foma on the west coast of Wrangel Island. At the same time, the head of the trading post, the Eskimo Tayan, and the geologist L. V. Gromov, got acquainted with the finds. It was L. V. Gromov who first published a report on the finds, a list of the objects found and their drawings.
— A.A. Burykin. Ethnoarchaeology of Wrangel Island (questions of historiography).



The existence of this island was known to Russian pioneers since the middle of the 17th century, according to the stories of the indigenous population of Chukotka and the Alaskan Eskimos. For the first time, the Russian pioneer Ivan Lvov put the island on the map, no later than 1707; Mikhail Lomonosov named the island "Doubtful", putting it on the polar map.

In 1764, the island was observed from a distance of 20 versts by "geodesic sergeant" Stepan Andreev, who surveyed the coast east of Cape Shelagsky. More precisely, the location of the island was determined by later Russian campaigns: first, according to inquiries, the expedition of Gavriil Sarychev, then F.P. Wrangel, and later the Russian expedition of 1911. In his "Journey along the northern shores of Siberia and the Arctic Sea made in 1820, 1821, 1822, 1823, and 1824" Ferdinand Petrovich Wrangel cites an excerpt from the Siberian Bulletin for 1823, according to which the island by that time was already quite well known to both the Russians and the "natives"; moreover, it had its own name and even a permanent population: “this land has inhabitants who call it Tikegen, and they themselves are known under the name Hrokhaev and consist of two tribes. Some of them are bearded and look like Russians, while others are of the Chukchi breed. The centurion Kobelev and the interpreter Daurkin, who were with the Billings expedition, confirmed the description of Andreev, even presented an outline of the land he saw, compiled by some American toen. However, Wrangel Island was established on geographical maps only in the second half of the 19th century.

In 1849, British explorer Henry Kellett discovered a new island in the Chukchi Sea and named it Herald Island after his ship Herald. To the west of the island, Gerald Kellett observed another island and marked it on the map under the name "Kellett Land".

In 1866, the first European landed on the western island - Captain Eduard Dalman, who conducted trade operations with the inhabitants of Alaska and Chukotka. In 1867, Thomas Long, an American whaler by profession and explorer by vocation, possibly not knowing about Kellett's previous discovery, or having incorrectly identified the island, named it after the Russian traveler and statesman Ferdinand Petrovich Wrangel, who unsuccessfully searched for the island during 1820-1824.

In 1879, the path of the expedition of George De Long lay near Wrangel Island, who tried to reach the North Pole on the Jeannette [en] ship. De Long's voyage ended in disaster, and in 1881, in search of him, the American steam cutter Thomas Corwin under the command of Calvin L. Hooper approached the island. Hooper landed a search party on the island and proclaimed it a US territory.

In September 1911, the Vaigach icebreaker from the Russian hydrographic expedition of the Arctic Ocean approached Wrangel Island. The crew of the Vaigach surveyed the coast of the island, landed and raised the Russian flag over it.


Canadian Arctic Expedition 1913-1916

The Canadian Arctic expedition of 1913-1916 was organized by the enterprising, energetic and charismatic Icelandic-Canadian anthropologist Viljalmur Stefansson.

The brigantine "Karluk" left the port of Nome (Alaska) on July 13, 1913 under the command of Captain Robert Barlett to explore Herschel Island in the Beaufort Sea. August 13, 1913, 300 kilometers from the destination, "Karluk" was caught in the ice and began a slow drift to the west. On September 19, six people, including Stefansson, went hunting, but due to the drift of the ice, they were no longer able to return to the ship. They had to make their way to Cape Barrow. Stefansson was later accused of deliberately leaving the ship on the pretext of hunting in order to explore the islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

Only 25 people remained on the Karluk: the crew, members of the expedition and hunters. The drift of the brigantine continued along the route of George De Long's barque Jeannette until it was crushed by ice on January 10, 1914. The first party of sailors, on behalf of Bartlett and under the command of Bjarne Mamen, set out for Wrangel Island, but mistakenly reached Herald Island. Sandy Anderson, the senior assistant to the captain of the Karluk, remained on Herald Island with three sailors. All four died, presumably due to food poisoning or carbon monoxide poisoning. Another party, including Alistair McCoy (a member of the Antarctic expedition of Ernest Shackleton in 1907-1909), undertook an independent trip to Wrangel Island (at a distance of 130 km) and went missing. 17 people under the command of Barlett managed to get to Wrangel Island and came ashore in Draghi Bay. In 1988, traces of their camp were found here and a memorial sign was erected.

Captain Barlett (who had experience participating in the expeditions of Robert Peary) and the Eskimo hunter Kataktovik together set off across the ice to the mainland for help. In a few weeks, they successfully reached the coast of Alaska and signaled the loss of the Karluk, but ice conditions prevented an immediate rescue expedition.

In the summer of 1914, the Russian icebreaking ships Taimyr and Vaygach twice (August 1-5, then August 10-12) tried to break through to help, but could not overcome the ice. Several attempts by the American cutter "Bear[en]" were also unsuccessful.

Of the 15 people who remained on Wrangel Island, three died: Malloch from a combination of such causes as overwork, hypothermia, gangrene and eating spoiled pemmican; Mamen due to kidney failure, apparently caused by the same pemmican; Braddy, according to some members of the group, was killed by Williamson, who staged an accident while cleaning a revolver. The reason is the difficult psychological atmosphere in the camp of the group. The murder was never proven, Williamson denied all charges.

The survivors earned their livelihood by hunting and were rescued only in September 1914 by an expedition on the Canadian schooner King and Wing.


Expeditions Stefansson 1921-1924

As Stefansson later recalled, in early 1921 he learned from the newspapers that in the conditions of the brutal Civil War in Russia, Japan intended in one form or another to annex Eastern Siberia with the adjacent islands. His friends, who returned from Russia, confirmed this opinion. It was then that the polar explorer suggested that the Japanese would certainly land on Wrangel Island, familiar to the participants of the Canadian Arctic expedition, designed to play an important strategic role. Viljalmur Stefansson decided to seize the Japanese initiative. Inspired by the experience of the survival of the Karluk crew and the prospects of sea fishing off the coast of Wrangel Island, he launched a campaign to colonize the island. To support his enterprise, Stefansson tried to obtain official status from first the Canadian and then the British government. On February 19, 1921, he received a letter from Canadian Prime Minister Arthur Meighen as follows:

"Dear Mr. Stefansson, I have reviewed the materials you have submitted to me today and felt it necessary to warn you that the Government intends to support Canada's rights to Wrangel Island based on the discoveries and research of your expedition. I believe that at present this is quite sufficient for the implementation your intentions."

Stefansson considered such a vague recommendation from a legal point of view to be a good reason for what later, in his memoirs, he himself called an adventure. On August 16, 1921, he gathered five future colonists in Seattle, led by 22-year-old Canadian Scot Alan Crawford. Ten days later, they moved to Alaska, from where on September 9 they sailed to Wrangel. On September 16, 1921, a settlement of five colonists was founded on the island: Alan Crawford, Galle Americans, Maurer (member of the expedition on the Karluk), Knight and the Eskimo woman Ada Blackjack as a seamstress and cook. Raising, first of all, the Canadian and British flags, they signed the "Proclamation":

"... Taking into account the absence of declared rights to the island by foreign powers and in view of the stay on the island from March 12, 1914 to September 7, 1914, the remaining living members of the crew of the Karluk brigantine, Captain R. A. Bartlett, who commanded this government Canadian ship of the Canadian of the Arctic expedition of 1913-1918, from which the surviving chief engineer Monroe, a native of Scotland and a subject of Britain, is present, we raise the Canadian and British flags and declare this island, known as Wrangel Island, from now on as the possession of His Majesty George, King Great Britain and Ireland, overseas dominions, the Emperor of India, etc., and part of the British Empire."

A copy of this document, delivered to the continent by the captain of the schooner Jack Hammer, who returned to Nome at the end of September, Stefansson handed over to the newspapers along with a story about the colonization of Wrangel, but at first such material went unnoticed. Only when, under pressure from the Washington Conference, Japan made a promise "in the current year", that is, no later than December 1922, to withdraw its troops from the borders of Siberia and the Russian Far East, did the events at Wrangel attract everyone's attention. They even caused a political scandal that did not last very long - a territorial dispute between Canada and the United States.

It all started with a protest sent to Washington by the Governor of Alaska to the Secretary of State. He was outraged by the illegal capture by the Canadians of the island, in his opinion, it always belonged to ... the United States. After that, Stefansson had to give explanations for his actions. Explanations published March 20, 1922 by The New York Times. On May 12, this led to a debate in the Canadian Parliament. The discussion of the amount of funds allocated to finance the patrol in northern waters suddenly turned to a discussion of a completely different topic.

"Meighen, former prime minister and leader of the opposition: "Does the foreign minister know that the government's policy towards the northern islands, especially in connection with the Stefansson expedition, led to claims on them, including Wrangel Island?" Graham, Foreign Secretary: "This is a very delicate subject of government policy..." Meighen: "Does Wrangel Island belong to us?" Graham: "Yes, I suppose, and we'll try to keep him behind us..." Guthrie, Opposition MP: "Last month, The New York Times and The Washington Post claimed that Wrangel Island belongs to the US by right of discovery. » Mackenzie King, Prime Minister: “I must say that the Canadian flag is currently flying over Wrangel Island and that Canadians are on it - members of Stefansson's previous expedition ... The government, of course, remains in the position that Wrangel Island belongs to our country!”

Meanwhile, no one knew anything about the fate of the Canadians, who of their own free will decided to confirm the territorial claims of their country. The expedition was sparsely equipped, as Stefansson relied on hunting as one of his main sources of supply. Having successfully overwintered the first winter and having lost only one dog (out of seven available), the colonists hoped for the arrival of a ship with supplies and a change in the summer. Due to severe ice conditions, the ship could not approach the island, and people stayed for one more wintering ... ice even could not approach the island. On September 23, she returned to Alaska with nothing.

In September 1922, the White Army gunboat Magnit (a former messenger ship armed during the Civil War), under the command of Lieutenant D. A. von Dreyer, tried to pass to Wrangel Island, but the ice did not give her such an opportunity. Opinions differ on the purpose of the Magnit’s trip to Wrangel Island - this is the suppression of the activities of Stefansson’s enterprise (spoken by contemporaries and participants in the events), or, on the contrary, providing him with assistance for a fee (expressed in the newspaper of the FSB of Russia in 2008). Due to the military defeat of the White movement in the Far East, the ship never returned to Vladivostok, the Magnit crew went into exile.

After the hunt failed and food supplies ran out, on January 28, 1923, three polar explorers went to the mainland for help. Nobody else saw them. Remaining on Knight Island, he died of scurvy in April 1923. Only 25-year-old Ada Blackjack survived. She managed to survive alone on the island until the arrival of the ship on August 19, 1923. She was accompanied only by the ship's cat Victoria (Vik).

In 1923, Deputy People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the RSFSR M. M. Litvinov took up the problem of the Canadian landing. After returning from the Genoa Conference, he was entrusted with control over relations with the countries of Western Europe. On March 27, 1923, Litvinov demanded that N. K. Klyshko receive official clarifications from the Foreign Office. On the same day, the deputy official agent of the RSFSR sent a private letter to Gregory, an employee of the Foreign Office:

"My Government has received further information which indicates that the Government of Canada has hoisted the British flag over Wrangel Island. I would be very grateful if you could find a way to respond as soon as possible to our note from last year, which I know my government awaits with great concern."

Klyshko's "private" request turned out to be fruitless. Then L. B. Krasin, the head of the official representation of the RSFSR in London, sent a new note on May 25, 1923 on the same problem:

"As already mentioned, in 1921 a group of Canadians under the leadership of Mr. Stefansson landed on Wrangel Island under the pretext of a scientific expedition and hoisted the British flag there. In 1922, Mr. Stefansson made a new attempt to land a second group of Canadians on the island, but the ice prevented him to carry out his intentions. Undoubtedly, in the current year he will make another attempt to land on the island to remove the party that he left on the island. The attention of His Majesty's Government has already been drawn to the fact that this island is a Russian possession and therefore Mr. Mr. Krasin is empowered by his government to ask the British government to use its good relations with the Canadian government to put an end to such raids Mr. Krasin would like to add that his government is taking steps to prevent future violation of sovereignty over this island."

Indeed, in August 1923, with the beginning of navigation in the Arctic, the rescue expedition of X. Noyce sent by Stefansson on a steam schooner managed to approach Wrangel. To her horror, she found only one living person on the island - an Eskimo woman, whom the colonists took with them as a cook. She said that three Canadians, including Alan Crawford, unable to withstand the most difficult conditions, went on foot to the shores of Siberia at the beginning of the first wintering, and no one heard anything more about them. And the other two died of scurvy shortly before the arrival of the schooner. Fulfilling Stefansson's order, Noyce took an Eskimo on board and left a new party on the island: the American hunter Charles Wells and thirteen Eskimos. They had to not only continue the presence of the dominion on Wrangel, but also harvest furs.

In 1923, 13 settlers remained on the island for the winter - the American geologist Charles Wells and twelve Eskimos, including women and children. Another child was born on the island during the winter.


The establishment by the Soviet Union of control over the island and the current state

In 1924, the government of the USSR sent the gunboat Krasny Oktyabr to Wrangel Island (the former Vladivostok port icebreaker Nadezhny, on which guns were installed).

"Red October" left Vladivostok on July 20, 1924 under the command of hydrographer B.V. Davydov. On August 20, 1924, the expedition raised the Soviet flag on the island and evacuated the settlers. On the way back, on September 25, in the Long Strait near Cape Schmidt, the icebreaker was hopelessly trapped in ice, but a storm helped it free itself. Overcoming heavy ice led to excessive fuel consumption. By the time the ship anchored in Providence Bay, there was 25 minutes of fuel left and no fresh water at all. The icebreaker returned to Vladivostok on October 29, 1924.

Soviet-American, and then Chinese-American negotiations on the further return of the colonists to their homeland through Harbin took a long time. Three did not live to return - the leader of the expedition, Charles Wells, died in Vladivostok from pneumonia; two children died along the way.

From the 1920s until the end of the 20th century, the opinion was expressed and discussions were periodically resumed in American journalism that, according to the norms of international law (as of the 1920s), the island should have belonged to the United States (this controversy was called there “Wrangle over Wrangel Island”), its belonging to the Soviet Union was recognized as shaky from a legal point of view, although in fact it is still not disputed by anyone. The 1990 agreement between the USSR and the United States on the line of demarcation of maritime spaces does not directly and explicitly deal with the maritime borders and status of Wrangel Island, as well as the seven Russian-controlled Arctic islands, in respect of which such claims may be made by the United States. In addition, this 1990 agreement was not ratified



In 1926, an expedition landed on Wrangel Island under the leadership of G. A. Ushakov, who arrived on the Stavropol steamer, the participants of which became the first inhabitants of the village of Ushakovskoye. In total, 59 people arrived on the island, mostly Eskimos, who previously lived in the villages of Providence and Chaplino. A polar station was founded here. In 1928, an expedition was made to the island on the icebreaker Litke.

In 1948, a small group of domestic reindeer was brought to the island and a department of a reindeer-breeding state farm was organized.

In the 1950s and 1960s, two more small settlements were founded on the island - Zvezdny and Perkatkun. Several military infrastructure facilities were built.

By the 1980s, the military began to leave the island, in 1992 the radar station was closed, and the only settlement remained on the island - the village of Ushakovskoye, which by 2003 was almost completely empty.

In 2010, the activity of the weather station was resumed, where 6 people worked. Of the local residents in 2011, the last resident of the village of Ushakovskoye remained on the island - shaman Grigory Kaurgin.

On August 20, 2014, the sailors of the Pacific Fleet, who arrived on Wrangel Island to carry out hydrographic work on the ship Marshal Gelovani, raised the Naval flag over the island, thus establishing the base of the Russian Pacific Fleet on it. By the end of the year, a military camp was built here, serving a radar post and an aviation guidance point.



In 1987, former prisoner Efim Moshinsky published a book in which he claimed that he had been in a "corrective labor camp" on Wrangel Island and met Raoul Wallenberg and other foreign prisoners there. In fact, contrary to these data, there were no Gulag camps on Wrangel Island.



In 1953, the administrative authorities adopted a resolution on the protection of walrus rookeries on Wrangel Island, and in 1960, by decision of the Magadan Regional Executive Committee, a long-term sanctuary was created, which in 1968 was transformed into a sanctuary of republican significance.

In 1975, musk oxen from the island of Nunivak were introduced to the island, and the executive committee of the Magadan Region assigned the lands of the islands to the future reserve. In 1976, to study and protect the natural complexes of the Arctic islands, the Wrangel Island nature reserve was founded, which also included the small neighboring island of Herald. In connection with the reserve, a 5 nautical mile wide buffer zone was established around the islands. The total area of the reserve was 795.6 thousand hectares. In 1978, the Scientific Department of the Reserve was founded, whose employees began a systematic study of the flora and fauna of the islands.

In 1997, at the suggestion of the governor of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug and the State Committee for Ecology of Russia, the area of ​​the reserve was expanded by including in its composition the water area surrounding the island with a width of 12 nautical miles, by order of the government of the Russian Federation N ° 1623-p dated November 15, 1997, and in 1999 around the already reserved water area, by the Decree of the Governor of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug N ° 91 of May 25, 1999, a buffer zone 24 nautical miles wide was organized.



There is no permanent population on the island. The temporary population is made up of meteorologists, employees of the reserve and the military.

Since 1976, employees of the state natural reserve "Wrangel Island" have been working.

In 2010, a new weather station was built in the abandoned village of Ushakovskoye to replace the old Wrangel Island hydrometeorological polar station, which is outdated and washed away by the sea. 6 employees work on a rotational basis at the station.

In 2014, the military base "Polar Star" was opened in the abandoned village of Ushakovskoye.



The area of the island is about 7670 km², of which about 4700 km² are mountains. The shores are low-lying, dissected by lagoons, separated by sandy spits from the sea. The central part of the island is mountainous. There are small glaciers and medium-sized lakes, arctic tundra.

The relief of the island is strongly dissected. The mountains occupying most of the island form three parallel chains - the North Range, the Middle Range and the South Range - ending in the west and east with coastal rocky cliffs. The most powerful is the Sredny Ridge, in which the highest point of the island is located - Mount Sovetskaya (1096 m). The northern ridge is the lowest, it passes into a wide swampy plain, called the Tundra of the Academy. The southern ridge is low and passes not far from the sea coast. In 1952, a mountain in the central part of Wrangel Island was named after the geologist and explorer of the island, Leonid Vasilyevich Gromov.

Between the ridges are valleys with numerous rivers. In total, there are more than 140 rivers and streams on the island with a length of more than 1 km and 5 rivers with a length of more than 50 km. Of the approximately 900 lakes, most of which are located in the Academy Tundra (north of the island), 6 lakes have an area exceeding 1 km². On average, the depth of the lakes is no more than 2 m. By origin, the lakes are divided into thermokarst, which include the majority, oxbow (in the valleys of large rivers), glacial, dammed and lagoonal. The largest of them are: Kmo, Komsomol, Gagachye, Zapovednoe.



The underwater coastal slope of Wrangel Island has the form of an ellipse, in which the island itself is shifted to the west. This part of the shelf is the narrowest (up to 5 km), the base of the slope is located at a depth of 25–30 m. The slope in the northern and southern parts of the island expands, while its base can be traced already at greater depths and the steepness decreases. From the south, the slope descends to depths of about 40 m with an average width of 35 km; from the north, to depths of 45 m with a width of up to 60 km; from the east, part of the slope has a width of about 90 km and can be traced to depths of about 50 m.



The climate is arctic severe. For most of the year, masses of cold arctic air with a low content of moisture and dust move over the area. In summer, warmer and more humid air from the Pacific Ocean comes from the southeast. Periodically dry and strongly heated air masses come from Siberia.

The polar day lasts from the 2nd decade of May to the 20th of July, the polar night - from the 2nd decade of November to the end of January.

Winters are long, characterized by stable frosty weather, strong northern winds. The average temperature in January is -22.3 °C, especially the cold months are February and March. During this period, the temperature stays below -30 °C for weeks, frequent snowstorms with wind speeds up to 40 m/s and higher.

Summers are cold, frosts and snowfalls occur, the average July temperature ranges from +2.5 °C to +3 °C. In the center of the island, fenced off from the sea by mountains, due to better air heating and foehns, summers are warmer and drier.

The average relative humidity is about 83%, the annual precipitation is about 135 mm.



The first researcher of the vegetation of Wrangel Island, B. N. Gorodkov, who in 1938 studied the eastern coast of the island, attributed it to the zone of arctic and polar deserts. After a complete study of the entire island from the 2nd half of the 20th century. it belongs to the arctic tundra subzone of the tundra zone. Despite the relatively small size of Wrangel Island, due to the sharp regional features of its vegetation, it stands out as a special Wrangel subprovince of the Wrangel-West American province of the Arctic tundra.

The vegetation of Wrangel Island is distinguished by a rich ancient species composition. The number of species of vascular plants exceeds 310 (for example, on the much larger Novosibirsk Islands there are only 135 such species, on the islands of Severnaya Zemlya - about 65, on Franz Josef Land - less than 50). The flora of the island is rich in relics and relatively poor in plants common in other polar regions, which, according to various estimates, are no more than 35-40%.

About 3% of the plants are subendemic (beskilnitsa, Gorodkov's poppy, Wrangel's poppy) and endemic (Wrangel's bluegrass, Ushakov's poppy, Wrangel's Potentilla, Lapland's poppy). In addition to them, another 114 species of rare and very rare plants grow on Wrangel Island.

Such a composition of the plant world allows us to conclude that the original Arctic vegetation in this area of ancient Beringia was not destroyed by glaciers, and the sea prevented the penetration of later migrants from the south.

The modern vegetation cover on the territory of the reserve is open and undersized almost everywhere. Sedge-moss tundra prevails. In the mountain valleys and intermountain basins of the central part of Wrangel Island, there are areas of thickets of willow (Richardson willow) up to 1 m high.



The fauna of the island, in general, is not rich in species, which is associated with harsh climatic conditions. The "image" of the island is determined by such symbols as the world's largest "maternity hospital" of polar bears (from 300 to 500 bear cubs annually give birth in local ancestral dens); these are the largest walrus rookeries in the Arctic; the largest bird colonies in the Chukchi Sea; the only place in Eurasia with permanent nesting of the white goose; here fossil remains of one of the smallest and last subspecies of the mammoth were found, having an age of 7 to 3.5 thousand years (that is, they lived under modern man).

The invertebrate fauna is poorly studied. There are several species of bumblebees, mosquitoes, butterflies, flies, and the skin gadfly, which has penetrated the island along with reindeer. 11 species of weevils, 7 species of leaf beetles, at least 33 species of butterflies and 30 species of spiders have been recorded on the island.

Fish in the coastal waters of the islands have not been studied enough. There are no fish in the freshwater reservoirs of the island.

At least 20 species of birds regularly nest on the island, and another 20 species are vagrant or irregularly nesting for the reserve.

The most numerous birds are white geese, which are among the rare animals. They form one main colony in the valley of the Tundrovaya River in the center of Wrangel Island and several small colonies. Passerines are also numerous, represented by snow bunting and Lapland plantains. For nesting and molting, black geese arrive in the reserve. Also among the inhabitants of the reserve are eiders, Icelandic sandpipers, tules, burgomasters, fork-tailed gulls, long-tailed skuas, snowy owls. Less common in the reserve are oystercatchers, pouts, arctic terns, skuas, red-throated loons, crows, and tap dances.

Quite often, birds from North America fly into the reserve or are blown by the wind, among which are sandhill cranes that regularly visit Wrangel Island, as well as Canada geese and various American small passerines, including finches (myrtle songbirds, savannah buntings, gray and Oregon juncos, black-browed and white-breasted zonotrichia).

The mammalian fauna of the reserve is poor. The endemic Vinogradov's lemming, which was previously considered a subspecies of the hoofed lemming, the Siberian lemming and the arctic fox, lives here permanently. Periodically, and in significant numbers, a polar bear appears, whose maternity dens are located within the boundaries of the reserve. From time to time, wolves, wolverines, ermines and foxes penetrate the reserve. Together with people, sled dogs settled on Wrangel Island. The house mouse appeared and lives in residential buildings. Reindeer and musk ox were brought to the island for acclimatization.

Reindeer lived here in the distant past, and the modern herd comes from domestic deer brought in 1948, 1954, 1967, 1968, 1975 from the Chukotka Peninsula. The deer population is maintained in the amount of up to 1.5 thousand heads.

There is evidence that musk oxen lived on Wrangel Island in the distant past. In our time, a herd of 20 heads was imported in April 1975 from the American island of Nunivak. The imported musk ox took root successfully. The first successful calving on Wrangel Island was recorded in 1977. The population has gradually increased over the years since the release, and the inhabited area has expanded. By the early 1990s, musk oxen had completely populated Wrangel Island. In 1994, the number of musk oxen on Wrangel Island reached about 300 animals. In the mid-2010s, the population on Wrangel Island reached its maximum size (850 heads) and can become a source for resettlement and the creation of new herds on the mainland.

On the territory of the island is the largest walrus rookery in Russia. Seals live in coastal waters.

In the mid-1990s, you could read about a startling discovery made on the island in Nature magazine. An employee of the reserve Sergey Vartanyan discovered here the fossil remains of woolly mammoths, whose age was determined from 7 to 3.5 thousand years. Despite the fact that, according to popular belief, mammoths died out everywhere 10-12 thousand years ago. Subsequently, it was discovered that these remains belong to a special, relatively small subspecies that inhabited Wrangel Island even at a time when the Egyptian pyramids had long stood, and which disappeared only in the reign of Tutankhamun and the heyday of the Mycenaean civilization. This puts Wrangel Island among the most important paleontological monuments of the planet. The extremely small size of the island mammoth population led to a weakening of natural selection and the accumulation of harmful mutations that caused the disruption of many genes - in particular, the deterioration of smell.


In fiction

G. A. Ushakov. Blizzard Island. — M.: Gidrometeoizdat. — 176 p. Memoirs of G. A. Ushakov about the organization of the first settlement on the island.
Gerbachevsky V.P. Head of Wrangel Island. - M .: Children's literature. — 192 p. The story of G. A. Ushakov and his expedition to the island.
In the novel The Island of Hope by the Chukchi writer Yuri Rytkheu, the action takes place on Wrangel Island in the mid-1920s.
In Jules Verne's fantasy novel Caesar Cascabel (1890), Wrangel Island is described as a high active volcano. The heroes of the novel swim past him on a drifting ice floe.
L. R. Sheinin’s story “The Case of Semenchuk”, based on actual events, tells about the murder of a doctor at a polar station during the winter on Wrangel Island in 1934-1935.
In the poems "Nanaun", "Land of Friends" by the poet, writer V. A. Shentalinsky.
In the Mortal Instruments series of books by American writer Cassandra Clare
In Boris Gorbatov's collection of short stories The Ordinary Arctic, Wrangel Island is repeatedly mentioned. The story "Tayan the Chief" describes the transfer of the Chukchi from Providence to the island, headed by Ushakov